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Your wish is their command. Voice assistants — like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and others — can do cool things like tell you the weather, order your favorite pizza, or turn your lights off before bed. And, depending on the voice assistant and which permissions you give, voice assistants might read your emails out loud and access your calendar and contacts. Here’s what to do to keep your voice assistant secure. 

Know How It Works

Voice assistants operate through stand-alone smart speakers or on your computer, tablet, or phone. To be ready to respond to your commands, some of these devices can listen for certain sound patterns — for example, they may be activated by a “wake word” (like “Alexa” or “OK, Google”). But they might mishear you, causing them to start recording when you least expect it. Voice assistants usually send recordings to the manufacturer’s servers, so take steps to be sure your interactions with your voice assistant — and your conversations with other people — remain private and secure.

Know When It’s Listening

Each time you interact with it, your voice assistant records what you say. It might also do that when you say something that sounds like the wake word. If you want to be sure that sensitive information isn’t picked up by your smart speaker, check for a physical setting (like a button or a switch) that stops the device from listening. You might also be able to activate light or sound alerts that tell you when your voice assistant is actively listening. Check your voice assistant’s settings options or the manufacturer’s website to learn more.

Check the Privacy Policy

Some voice assistant manufacturers have had employees listen to audio recordings in certain circumstances — say, to make their products work better. Check the privacy policy for your voice assistant to understand how your audio recordings are handled and who can listen to them. You may be able to change your settings to opt out of human review of recordings.

Delete Old Recordings

Review your default settings to check whether your voice recordings are automatically stored permanently. Usually, you’re able to set the length of time the manufacturer stores your voice recordings, and even delete old recordings. Go to the voice assistant app or log into your account on the manufacturer’s website to find out how. You might also have the option to set your voice assistant to auto-delete your recordings. 

Lock Down Your Login

Create a strong password for the app or online account that controls your voice assistant. Make sure your password is long — at least 12 characters. Making a password longer is generally the easiest way to make it stronger. Consider using a passphrase of random words so that your password is more memorable, but avoid using common words or phrases. If the service you use doesn’t allow long passwords, make your password stronger by mixing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And don’t reuse existing passwords from other accounts. If one of those accounts gets hacked, a hacker could try that same password to get into your voice assistant. Read Password Checklist to learn more.

Know Which Accounts Are Connected To Your Voice Assistant

It might be convenient to enable shopping, or to link your email account so your voice assistant can read your emails out loud. But do you want everyone who uses your voice assistant to be able to shop, or get your emails? If not

  • add a PIN or turn off voice ordering to control whether others (like your visitors or kids) can use voice commands to buy things. You may also be able to limit your guests’ ability to access your information or make purchases by enabling “guest mode.” Check the manufacturer’s website to find out what features your voice assistant’s “guest mode” can disable
  • check to see if your system allows a passcode to give an extra layer of protection for your emails

Check your settings options or the manufacturer’s website to find out how to make these changes on your voice assistant. 

Use Multi-Factor Authentication, When Available

This makes it harder to hack into your account, even if a hacker gets your password. To use multi-factor authentication, you need two or more pieces of information to access your account — for example, a password and a random number generated by an authentication app. Check the security settings on your account to find out how to add this layer of protection.

Secure Your Router

Think of your router as home base for all your devices. The more secure your router, the more secure your connected devices will be.